All Creatures Great And Small

Pup and parish join for a blessing at the Parade of Paws.

As the dogs and their walkers reach the top of their ascent up a winding road in Northeast Spokane during Parade of Paws 2017, tongues hang out of mouths and quick panting breaths can be heard from the group. The dogs look a little hot as well.

We are at Mount St. Michael, and the summer day is about to take on a spiritual dimension. Parade of Paws is that beloved annual event when hundreds of community members celebrate their rescued animals and shine a light on the work the Spokane Humane Society does for our furry companions.

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At this moment however, the fun, active event turns toward the sacred: the group is still joyful, but stands slightly solemn as Father Casimir from St. Michael's Parish blesses the dogs with holy water, reading prayers from the Roman Ritual which thank the Divine for the gift of animals who bless us and help us and share life with us.

“Let these animals receive Thy blessing, O Lord, to the benefit of their being,” he reads with a gentle smile, before finishing up by giving a welcome splash of holy water to each dog in the group. He playfully adds, “There you go, freshly blessed!”

Every dog has its day, the saying goes; for dogs in our city, today is a big day set aside by the Humane Society, and part of that is to simply be thankful for the wonder and gift of dogs. It might be imagination taking over, but each dog who climbs the hill and receives a blessing today looks just a bit more dignified. For those walking with their owners, or those who were checked out of the shelter by a volunteer walker for the Parade, each is a precious blessing, and this is their moment.

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Traditions of humanely caring for animals cut across religious divides, informing the faith traditions all over the globe. The Humane Society asks Father Casimir to do this as a great addition to the Parade and a nod to the connection between caring for animals and our most deeply held beliefs. For Father Casimir, traditions like blessing animals is an age-old way of recognizing something profound: in his tradition’s view, dogs are seen as holy, not lowly. “The church knows we are creatures of body and soul,” he says. “All these creatures and things in our lives that we bless are part of what we need to sustain life.”

“Let these animals receive Thy blessing, O Lord, to the benefit of their being,” he reads with a gentle smile, before finishing up by giving a welcome splash of holy water to each dog in the group. He playfully adds, “There you go, freshly blessed!”

Inviting the parish up the hill to participate in the Parade of Paws is a way to be a part of the northeast Spokane neighborhood, and form connections with another Spokane institution. The Humane Society facility has stood in the valley at the base of Mount St Michael since the 1970s, but both organizations date back for over a century to the early days of Spokane. While a humane society and a Latin-Mass traditional Catholic parish have very different missions and groups they serve, there is a friendly, neighborly overlap in the sense of wonder for animals and the calling to care for them well.

Plus, connecting, collaborating, and partnering with neighbors and other like-minded organizations around the city is part of how the Spokane Humane Society will carry out its mission for another 120 years. No one can do this needed work alone: for all individuals and organizations whose souls are stirred by a love for animals, the invitation is open to give.

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For some it’s a donation; for some a few hours a month exercising dogs (Parade of Paws is not the only time these friends need a walk!). And for some it means adorning traditional vestments, praying a blessing from the Almighty, and administering holy water upon a group of panting dogs. Okay, we’ll admit--that last spot is pretty unique, and it’s already taken by Father Casimir.

Whatever it means for you to be part of this ongoing story, offer that thing for the sake of something larger, which we all value deeply: preventing and alleviating suffering for all creatures, great and small.